"They'd Cut Up Gowns" — Former Beauty Queens Reveal The Dark Side Of Pageants In The '90s

"I could have won first place then, but my emotions were badly affected and I wasn't able to fully show my potential."

Cover image via 8 Days

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Beauty queens have always been sensationalised in the media for their sheer beauty and poise.

But there's always been a sense of mystery that looms over pageant competitions that are not always positive.

In a recent interview on a Hong Kong talk show called Yi Qi Zou Guo De Sui Yue, former beauty pageant queens Yeung Yuk Mui, 57, and Lai Suk Yin, 46, opened up about their experiences in beauty pageants, as both women competed in the Miss Asia show.

A Hong Kong-based beauty pageant organised by broadcasting organisation Asia Television (ATV), Miss Asia originated as a local pageant in 1985 and went through a bit of a whirlwind through its existence. After going on a hiatus from 2000 to 2003, the competition was rebranded as an Asian pageant in 2004, allowing competitors from all over Asia to compete. 

However, the pageant seized to exist once more in 2015, after the organisers at ATV shut down. In 2018, ATV announced a reboot of the pageant once more, after they transitioned to an online media company.

Yeung and Lai, who both emerged as finalists after competing in separate years, opened up about the 'hidden dark side' of pageants and how other contestants would stop at nothing to get the grand prize.

Lai (left) and Yeung (right) with host of 'Yi Qi Zou Guo De Sui Yue', Gary Yeung.

Image via @strawberry_yeung_yuk_mui (Instagram)

Opening up about her experience, Yeung, who competed in the competition in 1990 and placed second runner-up, said she witnessed tonnes of shady things going on behind the scenes

In a report by Hong Kong media outlet, HK01, Yeung described her year's pageant as being the most fun and most watched — despite the issues that were going on backstage. According to Yeung, she had come across a contestant cutting up another girl's gown to sabotage her, and even saw another sprinkling itching powder on the outfits of other contestants

Not being spared from the savagery, she also revealed how she was bullied during the pageant. Considered a 'dark horse' of the race after placing in the top 10, Yeung stated that she incurred the wrath of other green-eyed contestants after taking home the subsidiary titles of 'Most Photogenic' and 'Most Perfect Body'. 

Recalling the events that transpired, Yeung stated that her clothes and underwear were missing after she accepted her awards and returned backstage. Other girls also shunned her frequently, causing her to occasionally hide in a corner and eat alone.

"I could have won first place then, but my emotions were badly affected and I wasn't able to fully show my potential. So I ended up in third place," she said during the interview. Elaine Ng ended up winning the competition that year, the woman who would eventually end up being known as Jackie Chan's mistress.

Yeung (right) with the winner of Miss Asia 1990, Elaine Ng (centre) and first runner-up, Elaine Da Silva (left).

Image via China Press/Today Online

On the other hand, Lai mentioned that some contestants had little tricks up their sleeves, attempting to make themselves stand out with members of production

Lai, who placed runner-up in the competition in 1995, stated that despite clear tactics that were attempted behind the scenes, contestants did not try to harm one another.

Giving an example, she stated that a contestant would try to curry favour with the production crew of the pageant by gifting them bird's nest, the jelly-like textured snacks. 

Recalling a memorable incident that happened during a shoot in Paris for their competition, Lai stated how a former actress and 5th place finisher of the competition, Gong Xue Hua, made quite an impression on the other girls.

"We were sitting on our tour bus after shopping and Gong Xue Hua actually started changing her clothes on the bus!" she said in a report by Today Online. Admitting that she felt uncomfortable, Lai stated that Gong's bold actions did cause some of the other girls to feel inadequate.

(Left) Lai in Miss Asia 1995 and (right) Yeung in Miss Asia 1990.

Image via China Press/Today Online

While the surface-level view of beauty pageants will always seem fabulous and luxurious, the real experience to some may differ from that of others

Unfortunately, the full interview is only available to be watched by those in Hong Kong.

However, you can check out the article based on the queens' experience on HK01.

Though some beauty queens are cut-throat, this contestant stole the hearts of millions by rushing to help a presenter who fell down at the Miss Global 2022 pageant:

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